In January 1996, Bill Gates published an essay titled ‘Content is king’. Seeing where content is right now in the online space, you wouldn’t be wrong in calling Bill Gates a soothsayer.
But he couldn’t have foreseen the kind of content that would dominate the online space: video.
Videos have a hegemonic online presence.
But, why video?
People are more inclined to watch a video. Do this little experiment:
Search for Red Bull or Monster Energy or Vice in Bing. You are sure to get video results right at the top. That’s because these brands have focused their branding on video content, and hence are more likely to be popular as more and more people watch videos.
Now search for Lockheed, Gatorade or Bose, in Bing and you’re way less likely to find a first-page video result.
Not to take anything away from these brands and their popularity, but it shows when your content strategy isn’t as video focused or oriented towards emerging internet consumer trends.
Red Bull and Monster Energy have become inescapable names because they have tapped the potential of video content and published an innumerable variety of content not related to sports and other fields.
What’s in it for you?
You might not be a media and content-oriented company, but you should still consider the perks of having videos for your products and services. According to MWP, online video now accounts for half of all traffic on mobile alone, and 59% of senior executives say that they will opt for video when given the choice between video and text.
Incidentally, in understanding the ‘why’ of video popularity, we’ll also get the answer to how videos generate great SERP rankings.
Why are videos so popular?
Strong emotional connection
A video is very accessible, easy to consume and engages the audience’s attention for longer periods of time. A video contains much more information than text and images.
How does it help SEO?
The ease, accessibility, and immersion of video means that people spend a longer time watching content that you produce.
If you can make an engaging video, people spend more time on your webpage, increasing the what is called the ‘dwell time’. Dwell time was mentioned in a Bing blog way back in 2011.
Source: Bing blogs
More dwell time directly translates to Google recognizing your video and the page it’s featured on as something of value. The more dwell time you have, the better your pages will be ranked. Sweet!
According to Martech.zone, a well-optimized video can increase your chances of getting featured on the front page of Google by as much as a factor of 53.
The inherent engaging qualities of video also means that it has an astounding worldwide audience penetration.
Which brings us to:
The inescapable reach of video
Source: YouTube for Press
YouTube alone has over a billion users across continents consuming content in 76 different languages. Its reach is enormous.
Video is the go-to, easy to consume, preferred form of content for many people. According to research by Hubspot, 62% of people thoroughly consume videos, and 53% people expect more video content from any platform.
Internet video traffic is expected to grow four times and constitute 81% of ALL consumer traffic by 2021.
There is a natural inclination for search engines to favor videos due to the consumer trends in video consumption.
With so many people watching videos all the time, aided by mobile phones and ever-developing tech and techniques, video content is bound to surge your overall brand image to the top of the search results page.
Video advertising was started in Yahoo and Bing as far back as in 2015, and has been massively effective for them and their clients. But you don’t have to spend money on video ads. Simply having a market-relevant video means that your name is more likely to get featured in a top search listing.
How videos are featured in the SERPs
Google has been rolling out and beta testing many video-related features. A mere 7 months back I started noticing Google showing ‘suggested clips’ for various search results. Now, it’s an all-out feature to list relevant snippets of videos in SERPs.
A great way to feature in ‘suggested clips’ results is to make how-to videos. Your brand can be a hundred different things, but there is always room for making how-to videos.
Don’t know what to record?
Make a behind the scenes video of an event or your daily office happenings. Get some groovy editing and publish it with a ‘How to run an (industry name) office’. Whip in some humor and you’re sure to get your name thrown around SERPs.
Google’s image content readability is scarily good, and now it’s in for videos as well.
Still in beta, Google has been experimenting with identifying elements of video content to show relevant search results. It’s sure that this will be a part of their regular algorithm.
Source: The Verge
Your video content will have an immense impact on what the end user gets in their search results. This is perhaps the next peak time for getting your video content published regularly.
You might have seen a variation of this image identifying feature in other places.
If you own an Android phone, you might have come across the Google Photos app grouping together similar faces, places, and things. Or you might have seen various CAPTCHAs across the web asking you to identify sign boards, cars, buses and what have you.
Expect similar machine learning to be applied to video content, if more sophisticated. One single video can carry thousands of image elements. When Google’s Video Intelligence API catalogs all those keywords, that would give your video a huge SEO advantage. Just make sure to include elements in your video catering to the industry or keyword you are targeting.
There are reasons aplenty and means uncountable to get better in video marketing and to get featured in top results. There are many nitty-gritty details to take care of, but through it all, there are some very basic rubrics that establish the foundation for good video publishing.
Up next are some simple ways to phenomenally increase the chances of getting your video content to the top of the SERPs.
Best practices for getting your video higher up the SERP
Aim for 1-2 minute videos. You can easily shoot up to 4 minutes, but anything after that means you will start losing significant viewership.
Even though Google is getting pretty darn good at parsing video content for context-based searches, transcribed text helps its bots crawl your content with more accuracy. Means you are more likely to get featured for a much broader variety of internet searches.
More platforms mean more reach. Make sure your content is omnipresent. Upload your videos to YouTube, Wistia, Facebook, Twitter, your own hosting platform, or cross-share between all the other platforms to ensure your video content is always there when needed.
Cross-share only if you can’t natively upload to other social media platforms. You will gain phenomenal relevance, recognition, organic traffic, and SEO from native uploads and virality.
One study actually showed native videos in Facebook getting ten times more shares than YouTube video links.
Keep your video metadata relevant and updated. Add relevant titles, subtext, add descriptions, tags, make transcriptions and subtitles so your video is efficiently crawled by search engine bots.
Submit a video sitemap to Google along with some information using webmaster tool. It helps you to index your page better.
Make custom, high-quality, topical thumbnails that catch the eye. Click-bait thumbnail images might net you immediate views, but are bad for your reputation in the long run. You can even include text to give some context for the viewer.
Great immersion, endless capabilities, conveys emotions, global reach, occasionally no language barriers: videos are your cornerstone for a great marketing strategy. They give you front page results, get more conversions and are rising to be the most consumed online content.
You see, in many ways, a video is much like a trebuchet.
You might have a capable marketing force that gives results, but a trebuchet enhances your tactical abilities. It lets you mount a market assault with ease, from a safe distance and gives great results. Besides, a well-made trebuchet looks pretty, much like a well-made video.
Videos are your trebuchets. They look good, carry huge SEO value and make your brand a force to reckon with. Get them.
Keyword Rankings Are Meaningless: Learn How to Grade Your SEOMeasure organic success with relevant metrics.
Like many business owners and managers, you probably test the effectiveness of your SEO campaign by Googling the keywords you think are most important to see if you show up on the first page. And when you receive reports about your website traffic, you focus on the chart that shows average rankings for your targeted keywords.
When you’re spending good money on SEO, it’s common to obsess over your keyword rankings. You’re competitive and, to you, winning online means claiming the top spot in Google results. The problem is keyword rankings are an irrelevant metric to gauge online success. To truly understand whether your SEO campaign is working, you need to learn which measurements deserve your attention.
Relevancy gets results.
Long-tail keyword phrases are among the building blocks of an SEO strategy. They are used to optimize copywriting, metadata and link-building strategies. They serve to boost your website’s relevancy so the right web pages appear among search results for the right people in the right places.
But it doesn’t matter how your website ranks for each exact search phrase because there is wide variety in how people search — especially with the growth of voice searches — and the results Google shows each individual based on his or her history, location, device and other data.
There is no universal “page 1.” Google is customizing search results using RankBrain, artificial intelligence that analyzes search queries to provide better answers — making results less predictable and giving websites less control over when and where they appear. This means your page 1 could be completely different than what your friend sees five miles away.
Google Search Console provides proof. This tool shows the actual terms people searched when your website was among results. You’ll see your site’s average rank for those searches too. Using this data, it’s clear that you should not judge your SEO success on how one particular phrase ranks when several other similar search terms — the phrases people actually used — are showing your site in the top positions.
An SEO strategy that builds your website’s relevancy and authority in the desired geographic area will ensure the site will be visible for a variety of search phrases. This increases the number of opportunities for your website to be seen among results.
High-quality content on and off your website and using strategic link-building tactics (internal links and backlinks) is a critical component to achieving relevancy. This strategy protects the website’s viability against the frequent changes in Google’s rules and priorities.
Measure organic growth.
Now that you know to ignore keyword rankings, how do you assess whether your organic search relevancy and visibility are growing?
- Ensure the number of new site visitors arriving via organic search is growing, month to month and year over year.
- Ensure the number of visits and new visitors from within your target market is increasing.
- Expect increased conversions, particularly those from visitors who arrived via organic search. Track the volume of unique phone calls to a website call-tracking number and the number of contact forms submitted.
Don’t let ego fuel your obsession with keyword rankings. And remember that your personal search experience is not necessarily what your prospective customers see. Nor does it represent the effectiveness of other companies’ SEO campaigns or whether their websites successfully convert customers.
Focus on the outcome. Your goal is for the phone to ring and your inbox to be inundated with contact forms so your schedule is full. To get there, trust an expert who will build a campaign that uses a proven process, creates original branded content and monitors relevant metrics.
Did you know that 55% of online shoppers turn to Amazon to begin product searches?
“Amazon has become the reference point for shoppers,” Jason Seeba, head of marketing for BloomReach told Bloomberg Tech. “Shoppers will go to Amazon first to find a product and check prices.”
If you are looking for a launching pad for your products that your target audience likes and finds useful, Amazon is it. To get the most from your listings on Amazon, however, you will need to employ some SEO tactics to showcase your products and business.
The following will serve as your guide to expert Amazon SEO and ranking your products on the largest online retail site in the world.
Understanding Amazon results pages
Knowing the intricacies of how Amazon displays products can be very beneficial to getting your products seen. They pretty much have two results page formats.
There is the list view with 15 product results covering all departments.
Also the gallery view with 24 results per page displayed when specific categories or departments are searched.
Understanding the results pages is kind of like knowing how many positions there are on a Google results page, with their own types of ads and organic results.
Other key aspects of Amazon’s results pages are the filter fields located on the left hand side of the page (sidebar).
A user that navigates the filter will get a subset of the originally search query. This makes completing all the fields in your product listing increasingly important.
For example, if you are listing a “16GB” iPhone 6, you will want to make sure that field is filled in when listing the iPhone. Otherwise, shoppers interested ONLY in the internal memory size of 16GB could possibly miss your listing.
Just like Google ads, you want to have a tight grouping of keywords, only this time you want them stuffed into your title or description bullet points.
Understanding Amazon’s query parameters
The next bit of Amazon anatomy you should take note of is the query string parameters the platform uses. Having a working knowledge of these query parameters will help get your products in front of consumers who are more likely ready to make a purchase.
If you are familiar with how Google builds URLs based on their set of query string parameters, Amazon’s will be easier to mentally digest.
The top three worth examining are:
- Field-Keywords: This one is rather straightforward simply the keywords a user types in the search field. For example, “iPhone” or “Samsung 7 Case” would qualify as field-keywords, and Amazon will place them in the results URL.
- Node: This is a very good query parameter to know, since this is the numeric number relevant to Amazon’s categories. For instance, if you were selling a camera, you would enter the node ID 502394 representing the “Camera, Photo & Video” category.
- Field-BrandTextBin: This is essentially the brand field, and it can be quite useful for measuring your products with others of the same brand. If you are an iPhone reseller, than iPhone should be in your field-keywords, as well as your field-brandtextbin.
The hierarchy of nodes is also important:
To get more insight on how Amazon builds query parameters for products you can navigate the filter fields a bit. Clicking around on it will show how each category or selection can manipulate the URL.
Ranking on Amazon like a boss
To maximize your Amazon SEO efforts there are a few foundational ranking factors to put into action. Knowing exactly what to focus on when listing your products will get your products in front of more consumers.
Amazon uses data to determine what a user sees after a search query.
This data can be:
- Product Pricing
- Search Terms (keywords)
- Range of Selection (color, models, etc.)
- Product Availability (stock)
- Sales History
- Customer Reviews (star ratings and comments)
- Click volume
There are two main categories the above factors fall into, Performance Factors and Relevance Factors. Performance factors are interesting, because these are what signals Amazon to rank products based on how much money they will make by doing so. Relevance factors are the relevancy the product has after a user search.
Performance based ranking factors
The following performance factors are vital, because they essentially equate to more profit for Amazon. This compels them to rank products with these optimized factors higher. Simply put, if your product sells well when ranked higher, it will be sure to get more search love.
Conversions are pretty obvious ranking factors, but one of the most challenging ones to pin down. There are a few tactics you can employ to potentially show Amazon your product is converting well.
Amazon is tricky when it comes to getting a clear picture of conversions. You can see metrics such as units and sessions, but not enough data to really control, or A/B test.
First, find your conversion data in Seller Central by going to Reports > Business Reports > Detailed Page Sales > Traffic.
You will need to see the Unit Session Percentage to get the information needed. The Unit Session Percentage is (units ordered/number of Sessions) per product listing.
To ensure you are getting the most from your conversions in order to improve your rankings, you will need to adjust your buy box percentage. This is especially important if your products are in high competition.
For example, weighting your units ordered per buy box will signal to Amazon that you are converting more.
Images are important performance factors to improve your Amazon rankings. If you are not following their image guidelines, you may be losing a lot of potential customers.
Amazon requests that sellers upload product images 1000 x 1000 pixels or larger. Why? This will make your images compatible with Amazon’s zoom feature, and images optimized for zoom sell better.
Remember, performance factors are all about how you can provide a higher profit for Amazon. If they say zoom increases sales, then your images better be zoomable. This simple tweak to your listings can boost your rankings, and have a snowball effect for increasing conversions, which in turn will also impact your rankings in a positive way.
Price is another major factor in the ranking snowball effect you can leverage for optimal Amazon SEO. There is no secret that price is a major buying decision for consumers. If your product pricing is better or comparable to other sites, chances are, consumers will opt to buy your product via Amazon.
The more sales you receive on Amazon, the more sessions, the more conversions, and better rankings of your products.
A good example of comparable prices across similar products is for refurbished iPhone 6 16GB smartphones.
The market for iPhone 6 mobile devices is so saturated, sellers need to make their products as marketable as possible.
You should do a bit of Amazon product research in your category as well. You want to make sure your product price is also better or comparable to other sellers that will be alongside you in the results pages.
For instance, if you are selling refurbished iPhones $100 more than other sellers, you may find your rankings less desirable. This could happen due to low conversions based on higher pricing, or Amazon concluded your products would not fare well, thus ranking them lower from the get go.
Amazon ranking factors based on relevance
Now that you know how to optimize for the performance factors that Amazon uses to calculate its profit, it’s time to look at relevance factors. Relevance factors are all about search query relevancy, and can be easier to optimize for than performance factors.6
Product listing title
The title you choose for your product listings are in fact one of the most important relevance factors. It is where you will place your most valuable keywords, as well as a few other description related search terms to help users find your products on page one and above the fold.
A few essentials to include in your title are:
- Product Brand
- Line of the Product
- Size or Dimensions
Amazon, like Google, does advocate against keyword stuffing, but valuable keywords should be placed in your product title. A good title will influence users to click on your listing. Giving consumers a very clear idea of what the product is will secure a higher CTR.
However, a title jam packed with just keywords may have the opposite effect, causing users to shy away from your listing. Keep it clear and concise for the best results.
The smart watch listing above is an example of what to AVOID. You want users to BUY your products – so tread carefully that line between keyword stuffing and usability.
Including the brand of the product you are selling is very important. The brand field for a product listing will be shown and it will be linked to other products by the same brand.
Think about how you would search for your product as an Amazon user. For example, if you want to purchase a new Samsung smartphone, you would type “Samsung” as the first word in the search field.
Some sellers may find themselves in a bit of a conundrum if they have a product with different brand names. The Apple Watch Nike+ would be a good example of this.
You’ll see that this top rated Amazon seller used Nike twice in their product listing:
What exactly would you enter in the brand field for this one? The best place to start would be checking the highest monthly searches for each potential brand keyword. Google Keyword Planner or Moz Keyword Explorer are both good platforms for keyword research. Whichever brand gets the most monthly searches wins!
Bullet points vs. paragraph descriptions
There are a number of ways you can take your Amazon SEO to the next level. Some are slightly challenging, and some, like using bullet points in your product description are super easy.
Using bullet points rather than paragraph descriptions can give your products a rankings boost. Why? People like very concise information that is easy to digest. Amazon knows this and products with bullet points tend to convert better.
Here’s a perfect example of a bullet point product description that converts:
Including keywords, branding, size, color, and any other optimization factors in your bullet points will increase your products rankings. It is a quick tactic to employ, and you may just be surprised by the results.
Rethink your search terms
Relevancy factors on Amazon are all about fulfilling a user’s search query by meeting the expectations of their search terms. This Amazon SEO tactic can get confusing, because it is unlike the search engine optimization and PPC search terms you may be more comfortable with.
For example, let’s say you were selling an unlocked iPhone 6 with charger. You have five search term fields to make the most of, so what would you list?
Your search terms may have looked like this:
- Search Term: iPhone 6 16GB
- Search Term: Apple iPhone 6 “space grey”
- Search Term: “unlocked” 4G iPhone 6
- Search Term: iPhone 6 with original charger
- Search Term: iPhone 6 smartphone 16GB
Now let’s look at the Amazon guidelines for filling in product search terms:
- You have 50 characters per search term
- There is no need to repeat words
- Commas don’t matter
- Quotation marks are not good
- No need to use variations of words
- Leave out misspelled versions
- Word order may make a difference
- Spelling differences and synonyms are good
With the above in mind, here’s what your search terms could look like:
- Search Term: iPhone 6 16GB unlocked with original Apple charger
- Search Term: space gray 4G international unlock with accessories
- Search Term: Apple smartphone 6 generation factory unlocked GSM
- Search Term: iPhone 6 dual core mobile device 8mp camera
- Search Term: iOS Model: 51-F3A8-A92R 1.4 GHz Cyclone Processor
It may be challenging at first to make the most of your product search terms. However, one easy way to get the information you need to maximize this relevancy factor is to browse a few products on page one of Amazon similar to yours.
Make Amazon SEO part of your product listings
The above tips and tactics are some of the most important factors that you can use to improve your Amazon rankings. In some instances, Amazon SEO is similar to the optimization tactics you would employ for search engines. However, there are a few factors that are quite the opposite.
Make sure you understand how Amazon ranks products in your niche to get a leg up on your competition. Get the most from your conversions, keep your products in stock, and optimize for relevancy factors to ensure you land on page one of results pages.
What Amazon SEO tactics do you have the most success with?
In boosting your search engine ranking, it’s almost criminal to exclude social media marketing, especially given its pervasive presence online.
Last year, nearly 70% of people worldwide used social media in one form or another. Also in 2016, 2.34 billion people had a social media presence, and stats predict that this will increase to 2.67 billion by next year.
Number of social media users worldwide from 2010 to 2020 (in billions)
It’s not clear how Google really gauges social media when it comes to ranking websites. That’s understandable, considering the search engine has always been very secretive about its algorithms. What’s clear at this point, however, is that social media does help in driving traffic to your site, albeitindirectly.
The correlation can be found in the top ranking websites, which also have very strong social media signals. So even if Google says that social media shares don’t really count as one link, a large volume should account for something.
Below are just some of the ways social media marketing can boost rankings:
Cultivates Relationships With Customers
Social media provides an easy platform where businesses can directly interact with their customers. More than superficial interaction, it actually allows you to develop a relationship with your clientele. Successful use of social media even gives the power to the consumers to dictate how product value is offered. It’s not just about numbers, but rather making them feel that they have a stake in the company. Cultivating your customers through social media will drive more traffic to your site, resulting in a better ranking on Google.
Links to Your Website
The main purpose of social media is to raise awareness of your product or service. The main goal of Google, meanwhile, is to give the most relevant result when users submit a query. Posting your web address on your social media page—and asking your customers to share it—will also drive traffic to your website.
Businesses are always trying to figure out where their customers are, especially if their websites fail to get traffic even when they have existed for quite some time. Social media offers a ready customer base, with its almost three billion population. The trick is how to harness it.
Means to an End
You should keep in mind that social media is just a means to an end, as Google doesn’t really recognize any of it in its search engine results page (SERP). Knowing this, it’s important for you to make great content that can possibly go viral. YouTube, in fact, has become the battleground for marketers to create the next viral video. It may not directly lead traffic to your website, but it does make for perfect brand recall. Of course, knowing the attention span of Millennials, you’ll need to routinely churn out great content to be effective.
In sum, just remember these simple steps to boost your Google rank with social media.
- First, create an account on social media—particularly the big four of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube—which can help drive traffic to your website.
- Second, fill your social media account with great content, with proper search engine optimization techniques, to make sure Google crawls through the page and indexes it in their search engine results page.
- Third, make sure that the viewers or readers can see the share button to make it easy for them to post your content on their own social media accounts. Afterward, just wash, rinse, and repeat.
Customers, however, are not as keen to forgive on social media, as compared to websites, when the company fails to respond immediately. As such, it’s best to appoint an administrator tasked to respond to queries or complaints on your social media page so your customers walk away happy. This increases the chances of visitors recommending your business to their families and friends.
With my recaps of the Local SEO sessions at SMX West last month, we had a bit of a break from Greg’s Soapbox. Never fear, it’s back in full force this month!
I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend several large conferences over the last few months, and I have been a part of many discussions about what really works for local SEO. It seems that most people fall into one of two camps, and there’s a growing debate between the two.
On one side, we have people who hold the annual Local Search Ranking Factors (LSRF) survey, now run by Darren Shaw at Whitespark, as gospel. On the other, you have the anti-LSRF group, who think that the LSRF study is opinion-based poppycock (yes, someone actually called it “poppycock”). This side favors the insights gleaned from Andrew Shotland and Dan Leibson’s massive study of local ranking factors, in which they attempted to reverse-engineer Google’s local algorithm.
In many cases, but not all, the results of the study align with those of the survey — but in some cases, there’s a huge difference.
As I sat through these many conversations and debates over the last few months, I noticed something unsettling. Nearly every person I talked to on either “side” of the question seemed to fall into that camp by blind faith. They believed one way or the other because that’s the side of the fence they were “raised on,” so to speak.
Forget what anyone says — test it for yourself!
Maybe I’m just wearing my (officially licensed and available for sale) Greg’s Soapbox Tinfoil Hat, but in my entire career as an SEO, I’ve never simply accepted anything as the truth. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a mad scientist, conducting crazy experiments to see what really worked… and I’m incredibly surprised that so many people don’t look at things the same way!
It’s insane to read a blog post or two, or see a dynamic speaker at a conference, or even listen to your boss and trust that you’re hearing the absolute best truth. We all know there are hundreds of factors that influence the relevancy of a site, and being local SEOs, we know that Google treats different business types and even different search queries in vastly different ways.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not knocking the Local Search Ranking Factors study. I’ve been a participant for years, and I firmly believe it’s an amazing tool for anyone in the industry. But I also think that Shotland and Leibson have the right idea: you simply must test things for yourself to be sure that things really work the way you expect them to.
To geo-optimize or not to geo-optimize?
The perfect example is geo-optimization. Most old-school local SEOs will tell you exactly how to optimize a page for a geo term, inserting it in the title tag, H1, content, alt text, URL and so on. On the flip side, the correlations in Shotland and Leibson’s study show that geo-optimization doesn’t really do anything. So who’s right?
I’m on Greg’s Soapbox, so I’m right. Here’s the answer: none of us is right.
In some cases, geo-optimization might not do squat for a website. If it’s a competitive vertical, and every site has geo-optimized out the wazoo, then of course it won’t work. It’s exactly the same issue I discussed in my post last fall about unique content no longer being important because everyone is unique.
In other verticals that might be a bit behind or a bit less competitive, geo-optimization can be a huge game-changer. If you’re working on a site, and it’s the only one in the local market that’s well-optimized for that city, then boom — you win!
The issue is this: neither the LSRF results or Shotland and Leibson’s test will tell you what’s right for your own site or your clients’ sites. You’re going to have to test things for yourself to find out what really matters.
The Local Search Ranking Factors study is incredibly valuable because it points you in what’s probably a good direction. The 40 or so participants in the study are at the absolute top of the local SEO game, and I know for a fact that every single one of them is always testing. It’s a good bet that if the LSRF study points you in a direction, it’s a smart choice to follow and test that factor for yourself.
Same thing with Shotland and Leibson’s test — there’s a good chance their data is pure gold as well, and it should give you a starting point for your own tests.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, don’t trust anything on blind faith. Become a mad scientist and test things for yourself — you’ll be a better SEO, and you’ll get much better results for your clients.